Montia Parker was a teenager who excelled — an honor student who juggled college classes, a part-time job and volunteer work while serving as the charismatic captain of the Hopkins High School cheerleading squad.
On Friday, the 18-year-old also became a felon when she was sentenced to prison for a short-lived foray into another extracurricular activity — pimping her teenage classmate.
"Ms. Parker, it appears to me you are largely a successful student, and you and your family should be proud of that," Judge William Koch said before handing down the three-year sentence. "Tragically, you are also the leader of an attempted high school prostitution ring. No matter how your friends and family would not like for me to focus on that, it's why we're here."
Parker's prison sentence was a harsher punishment than requested by her attorney, Leon Trawick, who asked for probation on behalf of his young client, who had never been in trouble before last March, when she and another underage student talked a 16-year-old classmate and fellow cheer squad member into engaging in prostitution.
After convincing the teen that they'd make "fast money," Parker posted ads for the girl on the site Backpage.com, fielded calls from johns and drove her to and from the homes where she twice performed oral sex in exchange for cash.
In an exchange of text messages, Parker urged the girl to eventually move on to intercourse so they could make more money, telling her to close her eyes and think of the R&B singer Trey Songz.
It didn't happen before the girl's mother, noticing changes in her daughter's behavior and hearing that she had an unexcused absence from school, checked her daughter's cellphone and saw the text messages between her daughter and Parker. She called Minnetonka police, leading to the charges filed in May.
'Like a work mule'
Parker rejected an offer by prosecutors for four to five years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Instead, she entered a straight plea to three felonies, including soliciting a minor to practice prostitution, promoting underage prostitution and sex trafficking, leaving the sentencing decision up to the judge. She faced up to seven years in prison.
In an impassioned speech peppered with literary references, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Joshua Larson refrained from asking Koch for a specific amount of prison time, comparing the task to differentiating among the levels of sin in Dante's "Inferno." Larson said Parker exploited her classmate, a younger girl with a learning disability who yearned to make friends, by peddling her "like property, like a work mule."
Pimps come in many shapes and sizes, he told the judge.
"But just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," he said, quoting Shakespeare, "a pimp by any other name would smell as foul."
But Parker, who was drawn to prostitution by an ex-boyfriend who unsuccessfully tried to pimp her, is a hardworking teen who has learned the error of her ways and deserved a second chance, Trawick said, saying "both parties in this situation have suffered."
The victim was not present in the courtroom, but her sister asked Koch to sentence Parker to no less than four years, explaining that the fallout for the girl included switching schools, isolating herself and leaving her unable to chase her dream of attending an out-of-state college because they were afraid to leave her alone.
After issuing the sentence, Koch assured her that she will only be 20 when she is released under supervision in two years.
Koch adjourned the hearing, leaving Parker to turn to her parents as she dissolved into sobs while deputies waited. Her mother quietly urged her to stop crying, while her father, eyes downcast, said goodbye.
"I love you, Tia," he said. "I will come see you as soon as I can."